“I love the story I’m sharing“: Self-published teen becomes voice of inspiration for young people struggling with invisible disabilities

A teen author from Lancashire who shared his experiences of growing up with autism is now looking to inspire young people with hidden disabilities.

Teenage Charlie Michael Baker became an overnight success with his self-published book ‘Autism and Me’.

The book – about the 16-year-old’s struggle growing up with autism and the adversity he faced from his peers in school – sold more than 14,000 copies.

“It has been crazy, a load of dreams coming true,” he said. “I’ve been quite successful in the things that I’ve done and I’m really proud of that. It’s been a great journey that I’m thankful for.

“I love the fans, I love the people that recognise me, I love the story I’m sharing.”

Now, after enjoying success as an author, Charlie wants to to expand his audience – to those with invisible disabilities. 

Invisible Disability Awareness Week runs from October 15 to 21 and aims to educate people about hidden illnesses and their experiences. 

By definition, someone with an invisible disability has a long-term illness – mental or physical – that cannot be seen at first glance. 

Charlie’s own experience living with an invisible disability prompted him to write his book. He said: “Autism comes in all different shapes and sizes, but people will see someone different. 

“They will then go and bully someone for that, so I wrote my book.” 

Charlie posing with his self-published book ‘Autism And Me’.

From sharing his story, Charlie has gained mass support from young people with hidden disabilities like himself and continues to share inspirational messages online with his one million followers.

Despite the equal amount of hate he receives due to his large online following, Charlie does not let adversity get him down.

He said: “With any online following, it comes with a few jealous people.

“Unfortunately, you have that, whether you have 1,000 followers or a million, and it has been quite a difficult time with the hate that I do get.

“But I like to take them on and adapt myself to those comments and use those to fuel me, to be honest. 

“The more hate comments you get, the more successful you are.”

Charlie has raised nearly £400,000 for charities worldwide to help people with autism and other hidden illnesses.

He said: “I was not expecting to sell this many copies and to donate all of this money to charity. 

“I was expecting to sell five copies to a few family members and get the story a bit out there. 

“I’m really happy with the success, it’s helped a lot of people worldwide.”

Raiise UK is a charity that advocates for awareness and inclusion for young people with invisible disabilities in schools. 

Much like Charlie, the charity’s mission is to help teachers and students understand their peers who may struggle with invisible disabilities. 

Sophie Ainsworth, founder and CEO of Raiise UK, was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease lupus at the age of 14, which led to difficulties in school due to her condition.

Her personal experiences inspired her to connect with others with invisible disabilities and create a charity.

She said: “I started Raiise UK after I finished school and it all stemmed from my negative experience in school.

“I understood that the difficulties that I may have faced weren’t necessarily malicious or intentional, but it was the fact that my condition was invisible and that a lot of my teachers might have not necessarily understood lupus or how it affected me. 

“We got together a group of young people with a complete range of different conditions and ages.

“Despite all those differences, the similarity of them being invisible seemed to be what caused a lot of the problems and it was the fact that people didn’t quite understand that.

“From there, we started to think about what we wanted to do to help and teach.”

According to the Family Resources Survey 2021-2022 made by the UK Government, 24% of people in the UK are disabled.

The same survey found the number of disabled children in the UK increased by 5% in a decade, from 6% in 2011-2012 to 11% in 2021-2022.

Out of those disabled children, the most common impairment type was social or behavioural with 50%.

With the rising number of young people with invisible illnesses, the charity recently developed ‘School Packs’ in March this year for teachers to support their students who struggle with hidden illnesses. 

The pack includes both physical elements and information to enable teachers to implement new systems to aid their struggling students during the school day.

Sophie said: “We were really pleased to launch this, we did a launch in Liverpool Central Library and did loads of engagement with the public. 

“It’s something that we’ve worked on for a really long time.

“We had some setbacks such as Covid, and we’re run by a team of people with chronic illnesses ourselves, so we’d had some illness within the team. 

“What we wanted to do with this pack was to make a practical resource that acknowledges that you may not be an expert on epilepsy or arthritis for example. 

“The reality that we’ve found is that many teachers have such little time and they’re under so much pressure.

“They could have a classroom with several different students who have different conditions and can’t necessarily be an expert in all of them. 

“But these tools and these practical tips that we’re giving should be able to equip you with a bit of a start on how you can approach supporting a young person.”

Charlie shared some words of encouragement for young people who feel they are struggling in school because of their hidden disability.

He said: “Don’t care about what other people think. 

“As long as you are pleasing yourself and going by your own morals. 

“You can’t please everyone in life, so make yourself happy.”

Support Raiise UK here: 

Charlie Michael Baker’s book ‘Autism and Me’ is available here

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